Beyoncé unveils “Renaissance”, the first of three new projects

Beyoncé’s new album has officially arrived. In a rare violation of the Queen of Pop’s carefully choreographed release plans, an unauthorized version of “Renaissance,” the singer’s seventh solo studio album and the first part of a teased trilogy, was leaked two days later. early online.

Beyoncé acknowledged the issue in a statement when the album was released widely on streaming services at midnight Friday. “So the album leaked, and y’all waited for the right release time so y’all could enjoy it together,” she wrote to her devoted fans. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she added, thanking her followers “for your love and protection.”

The debut of “Renaissance” followed a marketing rollout that, for Beyoncé, was oddly conventional. After years of tearing up the standard playbook to release new music — eschewing early radio singles and interviews for surprise releases and elaborate multimedia shows — Beyoncé spent six weeks beating the promotional drum. She announced the album more than a month in advance, did an interview with British Vogue, released the single “Break My Soul”, revealed a tracklist and finally started posting on TikTok.

Yet on Wednesday, some 36 hours before the slated release time, high-quality copies of the album’s 16 tracks surfaced online, spreading across social media even as Beyoncé’s most vigilant fans swarmed. encouraged them to hold their ground (and report the smugglers). “Thank you for calling anyone trying to sneak into the club early,” Beyoncé wrote in her social media statement upon the album’s release.

Detective observers have speculated that the tracks may have come from copies of the CD which were sold in some early European stores. Perversely, the old-school leak from a hit album seemed to fit the comeback theme of “Renaissance,” which pulsates to the sound of dance music through the decades.

Referencing disco, funk, house, techno, bounce and more, the generally upbeat songs come from a wide range of writers and producers, with some tracks crediting more than a dozen people. In addition to dependable Beyoncé collaborators like The-Dream, Pharrell Williams, Hit-Boy, and Drake, experimental songs like “Energy” and “All Up In Your Mind” also feature electronic producers like Skrillex, BloodPop, and AG Cook of PC Music among their eclectic staff.

The samples and interpolations also run the gamut, from the regional and esoteric to the indelible: “America Has a Problem” draws inspiration from Atlanta bass pioneer Kilo, while “Summer Renaissance” the closing song, includes a 1977 tween by Donna Summer. electro-disco classic “I Feel Love”. On “Move,” a feature by cultural chameleon Grace Jones is paired with rising Afrobeats star Tems; elsewhere, Beyoncé connects the sounds of traditional black music genres like soul and R&B with subcultures like ballroom vogue.

“I’m one of the only ones / I’m number one / I’m the only one,” she intones on “Alien Superstar.” “Don’t even waste your time trying to compete with me / No one else in this world can think like me.”

In an explanatory statement posted to Instagram last month that Beyoncé expanded on her website on Thursday, she said “Renaissance” was part of a “three-act project” she recorded during the pandemic. She called the album, which she calls “Act I,” “a place to dream and find escape during a scary time for the world.”

Adding that she hoped the dancefloor-focused tracks would inspire listeners to “free the movement,” she added, “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free from perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, to break free, to feel freedom.

Beyoncé also cited her late “Uncle Jonny,” whose singer battled HIV spoken beforeas an influence for the music and its historical ties to the LGBTQ community.

“He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to much of the music and culture that inspired this album,” she wrote. “Thank you to all the pioneers who started the culture, to all the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long.”

Since “Lemonade” (2016), her last solo studio album and accompanying film, Beyoncé has overwhelmed fans with a number of ambitious in-between projects.

In 2018, she performed as one of the headliners of the Coachella festival, where her show honored the tradition of historically black college and university marching bands, and was widely hailed as a triumph – one who “repurposed his music, discarding his connections to pop and framing it squarely in a lineage of Southern black musical traditions,” as New York Times critic Jon Caramanica wrote. later turned into a Netflix special and an album, both titled “Homecoming.”

Also in 2018, Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z released a joint album, “Everything Is Love,” credited to the Carters. And in June 2020, at the height of nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, she released a song, “Black Parade,” with lines like “Put your fist up, show black love “.

“Black Parade” won the Grammy Award the following year for Best R&B Performance, one of four awards that night that took Beyoncé’s career to 28 – more than any other woman. This year, Beyoncé was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Be Alive,” from the movie “King Richard,” a biopic about Venus and Serena Williams’ father.

How the early leak will affect the commercial prospects of “Renaissance” remains unclear. Years ago, the unauthorized release of music in advance could have devastating consequences for an album. But that danger has been mitigated by the move to streaming.

And Beyoncé, like most other artists today, has taken advance orders for physical copies of her album, which will count on the charts as soon as they ship — usually the week of release. On Beyoncé’s site, all four boxes of “Renaissance” and its limited-edition vinyl version are sold out.

About Chris Stevenson

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